Top tips on how to be an effective learner

Learning has always been very important to me.

I like theory and abstract thinking but I think they make the most sense when applied to real-life problems; probably the key reason why I didn’t want to stay in academia which is predominantly theory-focused. After my graduation, I wanted to have a career that would allow me to constantly learn, not just having any job. Now I’m lucky to be part of the Government Communication Service (GCS) and the UK Civil Service which both put a lot of emphasis on employees’ learning and development.

Communication is a discipline which is absolutely unique when it comes to lifelong learning. It’s dynamic, at times frenetic. It’s all-encompassing; tell me any organisation or industry in the world which truly doesn’t need communicators. Last but not least, it’s people-oriented. You predominantly learn from interactions with different stakeholders. And when you deal with people you have to be more adaptable than when dealing with products.

Top tips

This week we mark the Learning at Work Week at GCS and on this occasion, here are the top 7 tips on how to be an effective learner at work and beyond. Why is it important? You might have heard this already:

Learning is not a nice thing to do, it is now essential for staying on top of things. To remain competitive, you need to stay ahead of change in the era of information and hyper-globalisation.

1. Explain why learning is important to you

Explain to your line manager or colleagues what you’re learning and how this will benefit you and your team. You should not feel guilty about taking time to learn at work e.g. through a formal training if necessary. In fact, all GCS members are encouraged to take advantage of the GCS Curriculum and discuss their professional development plans (PDPs) with their line managers.

2. Put aside and protect your time

It’s very difficult for most of us to find time to learn in our busy calendars. You need to dedicate specific time for learning when you won’t be distributed by meeting or inbox to fully focus on long-term goals.

3. Discover your learning style

Everyone’s brain is different. Some of us prefer learning by listening (auditory learners) to e.g. recordings or podcasts. Some are visual learners who like notes, post-in notes, diagrams, images. Some are kinesthetic learners and their key learning technique is by doing things, which includes writing notes instead of typing as writing may stimulate more ideas. Establish your main studying style to use it to your advantage. You can also explore some other techniques such as mnemonics or mind maps.

4. Be specific and set yourself learning goals

Most of us don’t pursue learning for the sake of it, though this is also quite an admirable attitude. If you are one of those people who just take pleasure from learning and knowing new things, you probably don’t need much advice! But in general, you should set up goals and timescales for learning a specific skill or subject.

woman smiling working on a laptop.

5. Hold yourself to account

One big behavioural truth is that most of us are not very persistent in keeping up with good habits. The same applies to learning. If you feel you are not going to stick to your plan, try to find someone, such as your manager or friend, to keep you motivated and check your progress.

6. Take breaks to recuperate.

Nobody will benefit from learning when extremely tired. Working on a task for long periods can actually decrease your overall performance. Take a short walk, yoga or listen to music which all can give you a fresh perspective. Try the Pomodoro technique (25 minutes of uninterrupted focus on one task) or committing to a 90 minute learning interval.

7. Share your knowledge to create a learning culture.

Have you ever noticed that it’s actually beneficial to you when you share what you learnt with others? I observed that I actually remembered more when I shared the insights from a book I just read with my friends. One of the best ways to learn is to teach it to someone else. Encourage your peers to learn by doing a team presentation – you might just become an expert that everyone will go to!

    Image credit:
  • Shutterstock/GaudiLab (1)